How do you get kids from juvenile detention on track for success? Chef and Café Momentum Executive Director Chad Houser talks with Billy Shore about building a new model for juvenile justice that develops career and life skills to overcome recidivism and reincarceration. “The juvenile justice industry calls them ‘throw-away’ youth. We need to be pushing as hard as we can to change that narrative and eradicate that stereotype,” says Houser. He sold his former restaurant and created Café Momentum, a full-service Dallas restaurant that provides year-long internships for young people coming out of juvenile detention. “The thing they’re learning is what are their strengths, what are their interests, what are they good at. For the first time in their lives, they’re getting to learn positive things about themselves,” he explains.
Houser plans to expand Café Momentum to 30 cities over the next ten years. “We’re not just expanding a program, but expanding the idea of what juvenile justice should look like in our country. We address the social-emotional needs and build the ecosystem of support around them so they can truly achieve their full potential,” he says. Café Momentum is consistently rated one of the best restaurants in Dallas and the interns are on track for a 100% high school graduation rate. “It proves that the young men and women in our program can and will rise to whatever level of expectation is set for them, as long as we’re giving them the tools and resources and opportunity to do so,” says Houser.